Rare Book Restoration Project
By Katarina Stiller
All objects naturally break down over time, and library books are no exception to this rule. Thanks to the support of the Good Family Foundation, the Arboretum Library has been in the midst of implementing measures to preserve and care for its oldest and most vulnerable books. Doing this significantly extends the books’ ability to be handled, exhibited, and read safely.
The first phase of this project involved performing a “condition survey” of the Library’s Rare Book Room, receiving specialized guidance from the UCLA Library Conservation Center along the way. The contents of the room, containing over 1500 materials, were carefully examined and recorded for signs of moderate to severe damage, like missing covers and loose or torn pages. Knowing which books and how many have signs of damage and detailing them on a searchable database is extremely helpful with then implementing a plan to rehouse or repair them.
Next, the books were arranged on their shelves by call number—much like how the rest of the Library’s books are arranged. This way, any book in the Rare Book Room could be swiftly found and returned to its proper place—making them much more accessible. Re-shelving was also a great opportunity to make sure the books were shelved appropriately. This involved shelving books with space where they were snug enough to have support but not so tight that they might become warped or crushed. Smaller, flimsier pamphlets were also separated from larger, heavier books that could tear or crumple them over time.
The project also included rehousing the most fragile books and periodicals as well as surface cleaning the shelves and books. Rehousing might include placing the book in an archival box or covering it with a Mylar wrapper. Doing this helps keep all parts of a book from getting separated (and then lost) if it has deteriorated to the point where pieces of it are falling off. Approximately 300 volumes were rehoused. Removal of dust, done with a low-suction HEPA vacuum, helps slow deterioration. It also aids in comfortably handling materials—more reading and less sneezing!
Katarina Stiller was the Rare Book Conservation Intern for the Good Family Foundation Grant.